Walter E. Fauntroy, Washington’s legendary former congressional delegate, was arrested Monday morning at Dulles International Airport and jailed in Loudoun County after returning home from a four-year sojourn in the Persian Gulf, authorities said.
Fauntroy, who helped plan the 1963 March on Washington with his friend the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was arrested about 8:15 a.m. on an outstanding warrant by Border Patrol officials while he was clearing customs, said Aleksandra Kowalski, a public information officer for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. He had just gotten off a nonstop Emirates airline flight from Dubai to Dulles, said one of his attorneys, Johnny Barnes. He was scheduled to spend the night in jail before a hearing Tuesday morning in Loudoun County General District Court.
In January 2012, Fauntroy left the United States after a bench warrant was issued for him to appear in Prince George’s County, Md., on a charge that he wrote a bad check for $55,000 to help pay for a 2009 ball he organized for President Obama’s first inauguration.
In an interview last week from the United Arab Emirates, Fauntroy, 83, insisted that the issue was resolved. He said he was coming home because he missed his family and that he had finally obtained financing for his green-energy humanitarian projects around the world. But he also was defiant, seemingly daring authorities to detain him upon his arrival at the airport.
“You read the news on the Internet that ‘Nobody knows where he is’ and ‘When he comes home he’s going to be arrested’? Well, see if I get arrested,” Fauntroy told The Washington Post. “It is disinformation which you can dispense easily when you control the media.”
Glenn F. Ivey, the former Prince George’s state’s attorney, is advising Fauntroy’s legal team. Ivey declined to comment for this story.
Fauntroy’s attorney in the bad-check case, Arthur M. Reynolds Jr., told The Post recently that Fauntroy had paid back some of the money.
When pressed whether Fauntroy would pay the remainder, Barnes said: “The congressman is not avoiding his responsibilities. He intends to meet them head-on. The fact that he’s paid some of it indicates good faith.”
Barnes said a hearing in Prince George’s will occur next month.
Barnes said that he did not expect Fauntroy’s arrest, but apparently authorities were anticipating his return because the bench warrant had been reissued Monday.
“The family is disappointed that they’re going to have wait to see him, but we fully expect his release in due time,” Barnes said. “He went through customs uneventfully and then Homeland Security people selected him out, went through his things, and said there’s this bench warrant issued.”
Barnes, who spoke to Fauntroy by phone after his arrest, said that Fauntroy was “disappointed that this has happened.” Overall, Barnes said, Fauntroy seemed “much improved and in good spirits.”
Fauntroy has been living in the UAE for more than four years, most recently in the town of Ajman just north of Dubai. He left his wife, Dorothy, nearly 82, in Washington to deal with a litany of family debt, including the potential foreclosure of their Northwest home. The couple also had to file for bankruptcy in Fauntroy’s absence. Friends and family had to chip in tens of thousands of dollars to help Dorothy Fauntroy cope with other debt and with long-needed repairs to the couple’s home.
Fauntroy said that during his trip abroad he was hospitalized four times because of heat exhaustion and passed out during each incident. But he insisted no harm was done to his mental faculties.
“[I was] revived without damage to my brain and body,” he said. “It’s a miracle, quite frankly. Only God could do that.”
Fauntroy’s family members — his wife of nearly 59 years, his son Marvin and daughter Melissa Alice — could not be reached for comment.